President Obama recently outlined his policy priorities for his second term, but if you think it's anything as practical as jobs or the economy, you are greatly mistaken. Instead, according to the New Yorker, Obama believes that "the most important policy he could address in his second term is climate change."
This choice of focus might seem bizarre, especially when one recalls that the so-called scientific consensus on manmade global warming and climate change was fatally shaken by the 2009 "Climategate" scandal that revealed the world's leading climatologists had conspired to cover up data and research that undermined warming dogma.
Persistently high unemployment and sluggish economic growth also suggest more critical policy prerogatives.
But as we report in our new book, "The New Leviathan," what seems like a case of stunningly misplaced priorities becomes explicable, if not defensible, once one understands the outsize influence that environmental groups and their sponsors in progressive foundations have in dictating the focus and content of our public policy on environmental issues, all the way up to the White House.
To see how that's possible, follow the money.
Left-wing foundations are the place to start. Though ostensibly apolitical, these tax-free charities have spent millions of dollars promoting environmental causes, most notably the dubious threat of global warming and climate change.
In 2007, for example, the New York-based Doris Duke Foundation created an ambitious $100 million program to fight the threat of global warming. That investment was nearly matched in 2010, when the the Ford Foundation committed $85 million over five years to "combating climate change."
That the president now prioritizes climate change policy — despite tenuous scientific evidence of a problem and at the expense of more urgent economic concerns — is a testament to the effectiveness of the foundations' campaigns.
More broadly, it is a tribute to the green army of environmental groups that left-wing foundations' funds helped create and whose collective activism has elevated climate change from a marginal issue into a national agenda.
It is no exaggeration to say that the Ford Foundation almost alone created the modern environmental movement.
For instance, the environmental powerhouse National Resources Defense Council had no members in the early years of its existence in the '70s and subsisted entirely on Ford funding. Ford's early support paved the way for contributions from other major foundations like Heinz Endowments and the Turner and MacArthur foundations.
Fueled by millions from these mega-rich charities, NRDC today is the country's largest environmental group, with annual revenues of $97 million and an influence rivaling that of the government's own environmental agency — a reality reflected in the NRDC's self-embraced honorific: the "shadow EPA."